Louise Southalan presents at XXXVIIth Congress of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health

Louise Southalan of the Justice Health Unit presented at the XXXVIIth Congress of the International Academy of Law and Mental health (IALMH), held in Lyon from 3-8 July 2022.

Every two years, the IALMH holds this international Congress, bringing together the international community of researchers, academics, practitioners and professionals in the field, whose wide-ranging perspective provide for a comprehensive look at important law and mental health issues.

Louise, who also works at Wungening Aboriginal Corporation and is a Board member on Mental Health Matters 2 Ltd, presented the topic Making the invisible visible in detention health research and policy. Her presentation explored detention health research and policy-who has the power to decide what is important in detention health, and to frame, identify, interpret and measure this? She argues that, given the complexity of these systems, all of us are constantly making important choices about this. Our choices reflect our values, habits, assumptions, biases or explicit decisions about power. When these decisions are left unexamined or where examination is delayed or resisted, systems and decision-makers can be blind to key insights, and blind to the fact that they are blind. This can render important knowledge invisible.

Louise asked what sort of structural shifts are required to make the invisible visible in detention health research and policy, and how is this done in concrete terms? Her presentation discussed several current examples where the nature of epistemic power and justice is at the forefront in detention health policy and research, and which have general practical application: (1) First Nations Data Sovereignty work by an Aboriginal organisation; (2) A lived experience led charity which structures governance and collaborations to embed intentional reflections on power; and (3) Micro-ethical decisions which researchers and policy makers make, sometimes unconsciously, and are critical to allowing the invisible to become visible.

Congratulations Louise on your contribution to this key international conference!